An alternative to popular faith

Most of the states are deeply in debt. Some of them even have stopped paying their bills. I live in Illinois. It is a deadbeat state. Our newspapers run editorials suggesting solutions to Illinois’ huge budget problems. These solutions detail tax increases and spending cuts. Sound familiar?

Neither solution will work. All states, counties and cities should understand why even the most well considered tax increases and spending cuts cannot solve their financial problems.

Yes, Illinois has among the most dishonest groups of political leaders. And yes, Illinois ranks in the upper 10% of the most distressed states. But it’s not entirely the fault of our crooked politicians.

No political entity, whether it be country, state, county or city can prosper and grow, unless it either can create money or obtain money from outside. Spending reductions reduce services and negatively impact the economy, which reduces tax collections in a never-ending downward spiral.

Tax increases merely circulate money within the political entity.Additional money is needed, because even nominal inflation reduces the real value of money. Imagine that together, the state of Illinois, its counties, cities and citizens, owned a total of $100 billion. To balance its budget, Illinois decides to raise taxes, which takes $10 billion from taxpayers and sends it to the state, which then sends the $10 billion back to the taxpayers when it pays its bills.

What has happened? Essentially nothing. There still is a total of $100 billion in the state, except after a year, even with a modest annual inflation of 2%, this money now is worth only $98 billion in purchasing power. After ten years of 2% annual inflation, that same money now is worth less than $82 billion.

Another reason the states, counties and cities cannot survive on taxes alone: Federal taxes remove money from the state every year, and as the money supply declines the state’s economy declines.

Unlike the federal government, Illinois cannot create money at will. It must obtain money from outside its borders. There are but two sources of outside money. One is exporting. We can send goods and services to other locations, which will send us money. But it is quite difficult for any state’s exports to exceed its imports by enough to grow its economy and stay ahead of inflation. An oil-rich state like Alaska and a tourism state like Nevada, both have money coming in from outside. But even these states eventually need a source of additional income.

And that source is the federal government, which in 1971 ended the gold standard, giving itself the unlimited ability to create money, not supported by taxes. By comparison, Greece is not so fortunate. It is limited by the “euro standard.” Illinois is limited by the “dollar standard.” All three standards limit money creation.

Despite fears of “big government,” the federal government must assume more financial obligations. As states, counties and cities continually raise taxes, they find they are in a never-ending, futile cycle, not just because of inefficient management, but also because it is long-term impossible for any political entity to survive, much less grow, without the ability either to create its own money or to receive money from outside its borders.

Rather than pundits calling for ever higher taxes and/or reduced spending, neither of which add to the money supply, they should demand more federal support. Mathematically, that is the only lasting solution.

In summary: The anti-big-federal-government crowd fails to take into consideration the fact that unlike the federal government, the states, counties and cities are unable to create money. When any political entity is unable to create money, its economy will stagnate, unless it receives funds from outside. Worse than stagnate, its economy will decline because inflation makes its own money lose value.

Ongoing economic growth demands ongoing money growth by the federal government.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell